The keys to the first of three new Habitat for Humanity homes built in honor of Pope Francis were handed over to Lashawn Meadows on Thursday at a "ceremonial key passing and dedication" ceremony in Asheville, N.C. Meadows will close on her new house Oct. 30.
Two more Pope Francis Habitat homes are currently under construction in Durham, N.C., and Milwaukee. All three were funded by the same anonymous donor with a seed donation of approximately $50,000 each. The donor has requested that the exact amount of the donations be kept secret.
Meadows, a single mother of three school-age children, said her new home is a dream come true.
"The kids and I are very excited to be moving soon," she said. "This has been a dream for me to become a homeowner, and Habitat has helped make this dream a reality. I am forever grateful. All of the staff at Habitat has made this adventure fun and made me and the kids feel welcome. We look forward for Oct. 30."
In a previous interview with NCR, Meadows said what she had heard about Pope Francis impressed her, and she was honored to own a home built in his honor.
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"I know he's a great leader; he's not into the royalty," she said. "I know he's different than the other popes. To me, he's a get-his-hands-dirty type. He treats everybody equally; especially the poor."
Tim Wrinn, an Asheville Habitat board member and a Catholic, was an active volunteer on the Pope Francis House construction. For several days, Wrinn worked alongside Meadows and her oldest daughter.
"To me, this is an example of what Pope Francis has challenged all of us to do," Wrinn said. "Keep things simple and improve peoples' lives."
As the Meadows family gets ready to occupy their Pope Francis House, the Habitat for Humanity of Durham chapter is now constructing a second home to be named in honor of the pontiff. The same anonymous donor, who has contacted at least three Habitat chapters via a liaison, has sponsored the Durham Habitat home "to honor Pope Francis for his commitment to social justice and reinvigorating the Catholic Church."
That home, which is under construction and will be dedicated Dec. 13, will be sold to Kyle and Labesia Brouhard. The couple has an 11-year-old daughter.
Blake Strayhorn, executive director of Habitat of Durham, said the project will involve all four of Durham's Catholic parishes as well Duke University's Catholic campus ministry community.
"It's great to engage our long-term Catholic partners," Strayhorn said. "We are committed to partnering with Durham volunteers and donors to help families break the cycle of poverty and build our community."
The Duke University Fuqua School of Business has also provided a large number of volunteers to help build the Pope Francis House, Strayhorn said. "I estimate 500 volunteers will help build the Pope Francis House," he said.
On Sept. 15, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki spoke at a press conference to offer his support to a third Pope Francis Habitat House currently under construction by Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity in Milwaukee's Washington Park neighborhood. More than 100 community volunteers came together that day to begin framing five new Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity houses, including the one being built in honor of Pope Francis. The Pope Francis home will be sold to the family of Erskine Jude.
"Habitat for Humanity helps families secure home ownership -- regardless of faith," Listecki said in a statement. "They bring people together to build homes with strangers and for strangers, with their own hands. Then, strangers become friends and friends become neighbors. What a great sense of community, pride and ownership. I truly believe this is a great opportunity for us to live the mission of Christ."
A Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity press release stated:
The donor has been inspired by the Pope's dedication to economic justice, equality and peace, and hopes to inspire others by inviting volunteers from local Catholic churches and schools to participate in the construction of the home from start to finish.
The donor stated the purpose of this house is:
-- To honor Pope Francis for his commitment to social justice & reinvigorating the Catholic church
-- To provide a unifying, celebratory opportunity for both Catholic and non-Catholic volunteers to work towards a common goal ...
-- And to further Habitat's mission of building and preserving homes.
[Patrick O'Neill, a freelance writer from Garner, N.C., is a longtime contributor to NCR.]